Blu-Ray Review: Videodrome

Director: David Cronenberg
Screenplay: David Cronenberg
Starring: James Woods, Deborah Harry, Sonja Smits
Country: Canada
Running Time: 89 min
Year: 1983
BBFC Certificate: 18


David Cronenberg is a director whose work I’m not as familiar with as I’d like. I’ve seen a fair few of his films, but largely when I was a teenager, so I can’t remember much about them other than the more famous scenes. I’ve not seen a couple of his classics at all in fact and only just got around to seeing his take on The Fly last year. In terms of his later work, I keep missing most of that too. The latest of his films I’ve seen is A History of Violence, which came out ten years ago.

So I’ve been keen to delve into Cronenberg’s career properly now that I’m a more experienced film lover and Arrow answered my call by releasing a ridiculously extensive 4 disc set of Videodrome. It’s one of the films I’d not seen for about 15 years, so was on my list of titles to watch.

It’s hard to sum up the plot of Videodrome as it’s quite a surreal film, particularly in the second half, and part of the pleasure of watching it is getting caught up in its nightmarish world. The first half seems more straight forward though, tricking the audience into thinking they know what they’re signing up for.

James Woods plays Max Renn, a TV executive working for Civic-TV, a cable channel that shows seedy low-rate programmes and films. Max is getting tired of the usual softcore crap that he peddles though. He thinks audiences want harder and more extreme entertainment and thinks he’s found it when a techie associate manages to access a mysterious broadcast called Videodrome. Basically just a series of violent torture scenes, the show grabs hold of Max and won’t let him go. After he gets more obsessed with it, he starts to experience hallucinations and gets drawn ever further into a twisted, bizarre world of sex, violence and television.

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Friday One Sheet: Maps to The Stars

Forget it Jake, it’s Tinsel town. David Cronenberg’s latest, a dark Hollywood satire called Maps To The Stars, gets a noir influenced poster; all smoke visages full of scheming and pensive anger. Somehow this film has eluded me in its Canadian release both at TIFF in 2014 and in commercial release a few months ago. The film is gearing up for its US release, so expect to hear more about the film in the coming weeks. For now enjoy this classic styled one-sheet specific to the upcoming American roll-out. If there is ever a Faye Dunaway biopic to be made, Julianne Moore makes a startling case for it here.

Trailer: Map To The Stars

MapToTheStars

After watching this trailer, I’m still not sure entirely what the latest David Cronenberg film is actually about, but it has Julianne Moore trying to recapture her youth, and an ambitious Mia Wasikowska with burn scar-tissue on her face. In orbit these two are John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Carrie Fisher, Sarah Gadon and Robert Pattinson. Map To The Stars is described as “A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.” I’m liking Cronenberg in dry/hysterics comedy mode, and that it polarized the Cannes audience last May is only a positive in my book. Check it out below.

Movie Club Podcast #27: Naked Lunch and Tristram Shandy

T he Movie Club is back in session. Better late than never. This time, Kurt Halfyard moderates the show and is joined by Patrick Ripoll from The Director’s Club podcast, CriticalMassCast’s Corey Pierce and occasional contributor to Row Three Bob Turnbull from Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind discuss unorthodox adaptations of novels to screen by way of pretty established directors in Naked Lunch and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.

The streaming conversation as well as the downloadable audio podcast can be found at:

The Movie Club Site

 
There is a very slight audio glitch at the beginning while introducing the film titles and speakers, but after that clears up in a few seconds, all is good.
 
 
Comments are turned off for this post, feel free to leave your comments on
The Movie Club Podcast page.

Review: Cosmopolis

Cosmopolis Movie Poster

Director: David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome, A History of Violence)
Screenplay: David Cronenberg
Producers: Paulo Branco, Martin Katz
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Durand, Juliette Binoche, Jay Baruchel
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 108 min.

Director David Cronenberg used be all about creeping us out while making us think. With the likes of The Fly, Scanners, The Brood, Dead Ringers and my personal favourite Videodrome, he delivered some of the most memorably creepy imagery in film history within what somehow still managed to be intelligent and thought-provoking experiences.

As of late, however, Cronenberg’s tact has changed to a more grounded approach with often shocking moments of violence thrown in for good measure (see A History of Violence and Eastern Promises). His last film A Dangerous Method, a disappointingly subdued and frankly tame experience, certainly wasn’t a return to the earlier style and going by his latest, Cosmopolis, he doesn’t seem be much interested in that anymore.

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Vintage Cronenberg is back with Cosmopolis Teaser

After detouring into period setting and psychoanalysis with A Dangerous Method, the more aggressive, violent and contemporary David Cronenberg is back: Hand shootings, eye stabbings, monsters running amok downtown. This looks like the most aggressive and genre-ish work the filmmaker has made in years. I am reading the Enter The Void stylings of the titles in this trailer as a good sign. And yes, Robert Pattinson looks great here.

Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti, Matthieu Amalric, Juliette Binoche, Kevin Durand and Jay Baruchel round out an impressive supporting cast. Cosmopolis is based on Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name:

Eric Packer, a 28 year old multi-billionaire asset manager, makes an odyssey across midtown Manhattan in order to get a haircut. Covering roughly one day of time and includes highly sexed women and the theme of father-son separation. Packer’s voyage is obstructed by various traffic jams caused by a presidential visit to the city, a funeral procession for a Sufi rap star and a full-fledged riot. Along the way, the hero has several chance meetings with his wife, seeing her in a taxi, a bookstore, and lying naked in the street, taking part in a movie as an extra. Meanwhile, Packer is stalked by two men, a comical “pastry assassin” and an unstable “credible threat”. Over the course of the day, Eric loses vast amounts of money for his clients by betting against the rise of the yen. Packer seems to relish being unburdened by the loss of so much money, even stopping to make sure he loses his wife’s fortune as well, to ensure his ruin is inevitable.

Movie Club Podcast #23: Crash and Crash

The FilmJunk crew has bowed out this week; but do not fret. Other exciting guests have entered the fray to help make the Movie Club Podcast go back to what it was originally intended to be: an always rotating panel of movie buffs and bloggers. This go-round sees the likes of RowThree favorites Ryan McNeil of The Matinee and Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast. Which Crash is your crash? Are you a lover of both, dismissive of both or somewhere in between. The sexual nuances of David Cronenberg’s 1996 Cannes award winner are teased out, while the subtleties of Paul Haggis’ Oscar winner are actively searched for. It’s a Thanksgiving Crashtacular, your mileage may vary!

           

The Movie Club is as much for the listeners as it is the contributors. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section over at the Movie Club Page. (Comments are turned off on this post.) The Next Episode will be recorded probably sometime in January (maybe, but do not hold us to that; regularity is not our strong suit!) and the films on discussion will be Paris, Texas and Southland Tales.

TIFF 2011: First Wave of Titles Announced

 

 

A number of the Row Three Staff make it an annual ritual to see between 30 and 50 films during the month of September when Toronto is taken over by its largest celebration of cinema from around the world, The Toronto International Film Festival, aka TIFF. So the first announcement of titles is interesting because it often goes back to what the festival was many moons ago: a Festival of Festivals, where best films from Cannes, Berlin and Sundance (amongst others) are offered to local audiences. Of course the festival has gotten bigger over the years (and much more expensive) and World Premieres are also par for the course, but this first announcement allows to see many of the ‘big titles’ (aka Special Presentations and Masters programmes) with guaranteed distribution will make their World, North American or Canadian debuts.

A quick survey by director offers new films from David Cronenberg (A Dangerous Method), Lars Von Trier (Melancholia), Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In), Francis Ford Coppola (Twixt), Fernando Meirelles (360), Alexander Payne (The Descendents), Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive), Steve McQueen (Shame), Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz), George Clooney (The Ides of March), Roland Emmerich (Anonymous), Todd Solondz (Dark Horse), Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea), and Luc Besson (The Lady).

Other titles of interest is the former Soderbergh project starring Brad Pitt, Moneyball, as well as a lot of stuff from popular music, including Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam documentary, David Guggenheim’s U2 documentary and a feature film from Madonna simply titled W.E.

Some interesting genre films, including the James Ellroy adaptation, Rampart, which has a loaded cast: Woody Harrelson, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, Ned Beatty, Ben Foster and Anne Heche. South Korean thriller The Countdown exposes uses the underbelly of Seoul as a backdrop for a thirller. The Hugh Jackman and Olivia Wilde comedy, Butter, which also features Kristen Schaal. Noirish Killer Joe features Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple and Gina Gershon. And the B&W silent comedy favourite at Cannes, Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist will be screening, as will Joseph Gordon-Levitt cancer comedy, 50/50 which also features Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Phillip Baker Hall and Anjelica Huston

In the more dramatic side of things, I’ve been quite anticipating Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur which features Peter Mullan as an angry, cynical alcoholic who has reached rock-bottom is surprisingly brought back into life by a complete stranger: a middle-class woman with a strong belief in Christ. Eddie Marsan is also in it. Also Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilley star in Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin. Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas star in Lasse Halstrom’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. And from the directors of Persepolis comes another enchanting film adaptation of a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi: Chicken with Plums follows the last days of a talented musician’s (Mathieu Amalric) life as he desperately seeks to replace his beloved instrumental, the violin.

There are many titles, 50 in all so far, for those who wish to peruse over at the TIFF website.